In Atlético Madrid’s 1-2 win in the UEFA Europa League over Rosenborg in Norway on Thursday, Rosenborg enjoyed long spells of dominance over their Spanish opponents but could not convert more than once on their many scoring opportunities. Atlético capitalized on two of their only three chances in the match and escaped with a valuable away win that went a long way in inching them closer to qualification for the knockout phase of the Europa League.
Will Atlético Madrid employ a similar strategy when they visit the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday night in the latest edition of El Derbi madrileño against Real Madrid?
The history of this rivalry at the Bernabéu in the last decade will make los rojiblancos ill, as they have not won there since October 30, 1999, the last season before Atlético fell to the Segunda División for a two year stretch. In that match, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink netted a first-half brace for Atlético, Real goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri was sent off with trainer John Toshack sacrificing Guti to bring in a green, talented keeper from the cantera Iker Casillas, and Toshack brought in an unknown Cameroonian striker to help erase the deficit, one of only three appearances that Samuel Eto’o would make for the Real senior team. Atlético won 1-3.
In Atlético’s favor, they followed up a loss at the Bernabéu with a draw since their promotion back into La Liga in 2002. Last season, Real Madrid won 3-2, so it must prove that Atlético will come out with some sort of a draw this time. Why play the match if it has been written?
There are twelve reasons: the starting eleven and José Mourinho.
Mourinho’s teams have only lost once at home in the league since 2002, and if there are two matches that Mourinho has to win at home in La Liga, they would be against Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. Coming off a disappointing 2-2 draw at the San Siro against AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League, Mourinho will drive home the naïve mistakes they made against Milan and will likely clamp down on defense while deliberately going forward when the situation presents itself. Atlético will likely provide that scenario for Real for a large stretch of the match, preferring to play on the counter-attack like they did against Rosenborg in the Europa League and against Barcelona earlier in the season.
Real Madrid is expected to win, but with Atlético, their tripolar personality dictates that one cannot figure how this team will play when referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz blows his whistle for kickoff. Like tennis great Goran Ivaniševic, when he described himself as having one of three Gorans every time he serves (Good Goran, Bad Goran, and Emergency Goran), Atlético comes out with one of these three personalities, and hardly do they stay consistent from match to match or even from minute to minute. If Emergency Atlético crawls out of bed against Real, the 170th edition of the derby could become one of the most explosive encounters in recent memory.
Besides El Derbi madrileño, there are other potentially enthralling matches on the schedule. Espanyol will look to extend their 100% record at home when they host Málaga and their new trainer, Manuel Pellegrini, who replaced the deposed Jesualdo Ferreira after a mere nine league matches, Villarreal will also want to continue their 100% home record against an obstinate yet exciting Athletic Bilbao side, and Sevilla will welcome Valencia to the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in the best matchup on Monday night since the LFP reinstituted Monday night football in February.
Note: Daylight savings time in the United States ends early Sunday morning, so the kickoff times on Sunday will be back on their normal schedule.
Real Socidead vs. Racing de Santander – 2:55 PM on Gol TV HD
Espanyol vs. Málaga – 4:45 PM on DirecTV channel 477
Osasuna vs. Hércules – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 477
Real Zaragoza vs. Mallorca – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 478
Levante vs. Deportivo La Coruña – 10:55 AM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Villarreal vs. Athletic Bilbao – 10:55 AM on Gol TV HD
Getafe vs. FC Barcelona – 12:55 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Real Madrid vs. Atlético Madrid – 2:55 PM on Gol TV HD
Sevilla vs. Valencia – 3:25 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Unfortunately, the Almería – Sporting Gijón match at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneo will not be seen on US TV.